MPs vote in favour of UK smoking ban

The House of Commons has voted in favour of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s smoking ban by 383 votes to 67.

The vote took place yesterday (16 April) following the second reading of the tobacco and vapes bill, where MPs debated the potential efficacy of the smoking ban.

Those that voted against the bill include 57 of Sunak’s Conservative MPs.

This comes after several politicians have spoken out against the proposed ban, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson who called it ‘absolutely nuts’.

Parliament’s vote in favour of the bill brings the smoking ban a step closer to becoming law. However, it still needs to face a number of further stages, including passing the House of Lords.

If passed, the smoking ban would make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 in the UK.

Sunak first proposed the ban at the 2023 Conservative Party Conference, stating that there is no safe level of smoking and that the measure would ‘save more lives than any other decision we take’.

Longer, healthier and more productive lives

Prior to the vote, MPs debated the impact of a UK smoking ban, including its affect on the NHS.

Victoria Atkins, secretary of state for health and social care stated that almost one hospital admission a minute is the human cost of smoking in the UK.

She said: The Bill is not about demonising people who smoke or stopping them from buying tobacco if they can do so today. It will not affect current smokers’ rights or entitlements in any way.

‘Indeed, we want to help them to quit. We are supporting them by almost doubling funding for local stop-smoking services. Instead, the Bill is looking to the future, to give the next generation the freedom to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.’

She added: ‘Smoking remains the largest preventable cause of death, disability and ill health.

‘In England alone, creating a smoke-free generation could prevent almost half a million cases of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other deadly diseases by the turn of the century, increasing thousands of people’s quality of life and reducing pressure on our NHS.

‘Lethal addiction’

Wes Streeting is shadow secretary of state for health and social care. He said: ‘What more motivation could this house need for once again taking seriously the health of our nation?

‘Today, smoking remains a scourge on our society. Some 75,000 GP appointments every month are to deal with the impacts of smoking. The cost to our economy, after taxes, is £10 billion. Around 80,000 of our friends, neighbours and colleagues lose their lives to smoking every year.

‘It is a lethal addiction, a scourge on society, an enormous burden on our NHS and a drag on our economy, and it is time to consign it to the dustbins of history.

‘Let us act today so that the next generation of young people can live healthier, happier and longer lives than the generations before them. Labour will give our wholehearted support to this Bill.’

In addition, Kirsten Oswald, SNP MP for East Renfrewshire said: ‘Let us be clear that any arguments put forward about personal choice or personal freedom make no sense at all when we are talking about children and a highly addictive substance.

‘Smoking is not a free choice; it is an addiction. Nicotine is a horribly addictive substance. That is why this is a positive and necessary move, and one widely welcomed, including by Asthma and Lung UK.

‘That organisation points to the significant harm to future generations if we do not act now, and highlights the enormous cost to the NHS if we do not take this preventative action when we have the opportunity to do so.’

Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans said: ‘I will be supporting the measures in this Bill, but coming to that decision was a bit of a journey for me. My first reaction on hearing of the Bill before it was published was indignation, because the measures are just a drop in the ocean in terms of what is needed to tackle cancer.

‘One in two of us will get cancer at some point, yet the Government have missed their targets to provide fast cancer treatment every year since 2015 and have dropped their 10-year cancer plan. What we need is research in rare cancers, outdated cancer scanners updated, cancer nurses and efforts to tackle waiting times.’

She also added: ‘In conclusion, do I think this measure is the first or best thing that the Government should be doing to tackle cancer? No. Do I think this measure is particularly ambitious? No. But do I think it is a useful step that will help us to tackle the dangerous health impacts of smoking addiction, to improve population health and to take pressure off the NHS? Personally, I do.’


Conservative MP John Hayes dubbed it ‘at worst an absurdity’.

‘The idea of a rolling age of consent, with the consequence that someone of 35 will be able to buy tobacco but someone of 34 will not and so on, is at best a curiosity and at worst an absurdity,’ he said.

Sir Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen, added: ‘Has my right honourable friend seen the latest statistics that say twice as many schoolchildren smoke cannabis as smoke tobacco? It is already illegal—for all of us, not just children—to smoke cannabis.

‘If a ban really worked, how can she explain those statistics? How can she show that this ban to stop people who are currently 15 will be different from the anti-drugs legislation that we already have?’

Likewise, Anthony Mangnall, Conservative MP for Totnes, said: ‘I am somewhat perplexed by this debate, and indeed by the Bill. I do not consider it to be enforceable, and I also think it fails to take into account the effective tax measures and health campaigns that have been run by successive Governments to reduce the number of smokers.

‘Nor does it respond to the fact that, in the long run, bad and poor diets are likely to kill more people than smoking. According to a recent study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, more people are dying from malnutrition than from smoking.’

In addition, former Prime Minister Liz Truss expressed concerns over freedom.

‘I am not speaking in this debate because I love smoking, although I have voted against every single smoking prohibition since I have been a member of parliament,’ she said.

‘I am speaking today because I am very concerned that the policy that has been put forward is emblematic of a technocratic establishment in this county that wants to limit people’s freedom. That is a problem.’

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